Kent State baseball goes 1-2 in College of Charleston Tournament

Richie Mulhall

The 8-8 Kent State baseball team took part in the College of Charleston tournament this past weekend in Charleston, S.C. and won its first game against host College of Charleston but then lost its last two games against Appalachian State and Michigan.

In the opening game of the three-game series, Kent State’s bats came alive and the Flashes came out swinging, scoring eight runs on nine hits en route to an 8-6 victory over the College of Charleston Friday.

“We took a step forward today as a team,” Kent State head coach Jeff Duncan told Kent State Athletics. “They responded well after last weekend, and that’s huge.”

Kent State’s first run of the ball came when redshirt senior first baseman Cody Koch reached on a fielder’s choice and sophomore third baseman Justin Wagler came across to score from third.

Kent State tacked on three more runs in the sixth inning to take a four-run lead. The Flashes scored the first run of the inning off a walk and then added the other two runs to the mix after redshirt senior Jon Wilson blasted an RBI single up the middle, allowing senior right fielder TJ Sutton and Koch to tack on two more runs.

The Cougars cut the lead to two and finally got on the board in the sixth inning off a single and a homer, but Kent State gave itself a little more breathing room after two walks, an RBI base hit by Koch and a two-RBI single down the left-field line.

The team continued to pad its lead later on in the eighth inning when junior center fielder Alex Miklos crossed the home-plate bag on a passed ball.

Late in the game in the bottom of the ninth, the College of Charleston tried to make things interesting and fought back from behind to score for runs; however, the Flashes were able to thwart the Cougars’ comeback and maintain their lead to win 8-6.

Freshman starting pitcher Eric Lauer (4-1) gave the Flashes’ bats the momentum they needed to start the game and really set the game in motion with a solid performance on the mound Friday. During Friday’s game, Lauer went six innings, gave up three hits, two runs and three walks. He also struck out three in his fourth win of the season.

“Eric Lauer set the tone for us on the mound,” Duncan said.  “He had really good stuff tonight and that helped our offense.”

On Saturday, Appalachian State shut out the Flashes 8-0.

The Mountaineers jumped out to a 4-run lead in the fifth inning on an RBI single and double and then a two-run shot to left field.

Appalachian State tallied four more definitive runs in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings to double the lead by the end of the game.

Kent State also doomed itself late in the game by committing three costly errors in the late innings. The team matched the Mountaineers in the hits column with nine, but failed to score and stranded 10 total runners on base for the game. Not a single Flash hit for extra bases, making it difficult to move the runners into scoring position.

Sophomore starting pitcher Nick Jensen-Clagg (0-1) had a rough starting debut on the mound, going five innings with six hits, four runs, no walks and five strikeouts.

On Sunday, Kent State concluded its play in the College of Charleston Tournament with a close 3-2 loss to Michigan in his first start of the season.

Michigan struck first in the second inning with a stolen base and sacrifice fly to take the early 1-0 lead.

The Flashes did not retaliate until five innings later in the seventh inning when the team’s bats finally got hot and gave Kent State a 2-1 advantage.

Miklos kicked off the scoring inning with a single. Kent State’s best slugger and sophomore infielder Zarley Zalewski doubled Miklos home, and TJ Sutton brought Zalewski home with a single that fell just inside fair territory.

“We were feeling pretty good at that point in the seventh inning,” Duncan said.

Unfortunately for the Flashes, the seventh inning’s scoring frenzy did not die down after Kent State stepped down from the plate.

The Wolverines reached twice in the seventh after an RBI, a fielder’s choice error and sacrifice fly to steal back the lead 3-2.

“That was the turning point of the game,” Duncan said. “We should have been out of that inning.”

Miklos, who was the only Flash with two hits in the ball game, tried to spark a late comeback in the ninth inning with a lead-off double, but the Flashes were unable to push the runner across as Michigan held on to its 3-2 lead to close the game.

Junior starting pitcher Brian Clark (1-4), who is struggling so far this season with four losses and 6.75 ERA, fanned two, went six innings and only allowed one earned run in arguably his best showing yet this season. He also only gave up five hits and two walks.

“It was a well-pitched game,” Duncan said. “Their starter did a good job and our starter did a good job.”

The Flashes will return home this week to host Youngstown State in their home opener Wednesday. The game will begin at 3 p.m. at Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected]